Austria’s highest court ruled for a do-over of the presidential election runoff after it found discrepancies in the mail ballots.
The mail-in ballots made former Green Party chief Alexander Van der Bellen president with 50.3% of the vote over Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer.
Constitutional Court head Gerhart Holzinger said the court noted “that the irregularities affected nearly 78,000 votes — more than twice the margin separating the two candidates.”
The court found more than twice that number of postal ballots had been affected by breaches of the electoral code, forcing it to order a re-run.
Irregularities included ballots being processed before the official start of the count the morning after the election, and counts being carried out in the absence of party observers, often because officials were racing to provide a result quickly.
Lawyers for the Freedom Party claimed 94 of the 117 districts “illegally handled” the ballots by opening them “far earlier than permitted.” They also believe that people under 16-year-olds and foreigners voted.
Left political parties have dominated Austrian politics since the end of World War II, mainly from the Social Democrats and People’s Party. A victory makes Horbert the first far-right president since the 1940s.
Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka admitted “[T]here was sloppiness” while witnesses said he put “pressure on officials to provide a rapid count, told reporters after the verdict.”
Van der Bellan chose to campaign with a pro-European Union platform while Hofer “tapped into anti-EU sentiment and fears about rising numbers of asylum seekers.”
The president of Austria is considered a ceremonial post. From the BBC:
It is mostly a ceremonial post. But the president does have the power to dissolve the National Council – the more powerful lower house of parliament. That triggers a general election. The president can only do that once for a particular reason – he cannot use the same grounds to dissolve it again.
It is the chancellor’s job to appoint government ministers. And the chancellor has the power to dismiss the government. But ministers have to be formally sworn in by the president. And Mr Hofer has said he would not swear in a female minister who wore a hijab, which he has described as a sign of oppression.
This could have even more implications, after Brexit.
As Jazz Shaw at Hot Air notes:
Yep. We’re basically going to do the whole thing over again. The European media is already wetting itself over the implications because of Hofer’s stance on immigration and national sovereignty. (The fact that he carries a Glock on the campaign trail doesn’t make him any more popular with the press either.)
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